The first ever famous petition to Rwandan parliament is undeniably about the constitutional amendment in 2015 and it will remain on top because it involved the whole of Rwanda.
However, 2018 leaves a new legacy that even one citizen can challenge parliament to look into a matter which suggests that existing provisions segregate a certain group in society.
In April 2018, a concerned Rwandan citizen put pen on paper and petitioned Parliament to amend the law on conducting driving license trials by allowing candidates to have a choice between automatic cars and manual transmission vehicles.
In a letter addressed to lawmakers, one Frank Shumbusho argues that the current methods used to conduct driving permit exams with manual cars limits automatic vehicle owners to acquire driving licenses just like other citizen.
At that time, some members of parliament of the third parliament teased Shumbusho and said that he was tabling a small matter to parliament which has other pressing issues.”
It was not until November 27, 2018 when it became clear that parliament took the matter seriously.
A Member of Parliament pledged support for the bill.
“The bill is on the way and be assured that I will support it 100%. The assumption that people who are tested on automatic vehicles are likely to cause accidents once they drive them is rather a terrible bias. The make-up of the car has nothing to do with the traffic offence,” said Member of Parliament John Rukumbura on his twitter handle.
Rukumbura was responding to the concern of another citizen, other than Shumbusho who suggested that Police should consider letting people use vehicles with automatic transmission to do driving license tests.
The citizen was suggesting how it should be conducted.
“In some countries this happens and the license you get is endorsed to the effect that it is valid only for driving an automatic transmission vehicles,” Tweeted Fiona Kamikazi prompting the MP to respond.
Meanwhile, the National Police which is thought to be ‘responsible for the complicated and segregating driving tests said they don’t mind adjusting if natural procedure is followed.
“We do not make laws,” is how Traffic Police spokesperson Ndushabandi responded to our queries. “We are law enforcers. We have no problem if the law on driving tests changed and gave way for automatic vehicles to be used.”
According to Ndushabandi, for the law to change, it will be up to Rwandans themselves to push parliament to change the law.
New House in action
Ahead of 2019 business the fourth parliament which is just four months old passed two bills including; a draft law governing University of Rwanda and a draft law governing Rwanda Meteorology Agency.
The parliament also passed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, a famous agreement for African intra trade which needs 22 countries’ ratifications to be into force.
So far, 15 countries, Rwanda inclusive have ratified it in a period of nine months. Togo is latest on a list of the fifteen.
The House also started by working on societal matters. The subject of moral decadence and fading of the Rwandan values will be central in the next parliamentary sessions.
In December, the house invited different institutions to discuss solution to challenges facing the Rwandan society.
One of the recommendations of this consultative meeting is to conduct in-depth research on challenges facing the family as well as their underlying causes.
Recommendations included preparation and improvement of a curriculum on positive parenting and youth education.
Another curriculum was recommended to cater for marital life and the principle of gender.
Doing this work and much more that is expected to change a lot in Rwanda’s legislation is the fourth lower chamber of the parliament and the senate.
All Political get fair share
The forth parliament started business on October 5, 2018 with new faces that replaced among others, iconic figures of the parliament and this left the public wondering if the new crop was up to the task.
MPs like Juvénal Nkusi who headed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for close to 15 years did not come back in the fourth parliament.
After his retirement, a new MP on the list of Social Democratic Party, Jean Chrysostom Ngabitsinze who is also the Secretary General of PSD was elected PAC president.
Nkusi was known for his tough stance on public officials whose record in Auditor General’s Reports was bad.
However, the most important element to note is diversity in the parliament. The fourth parliament is the first ever which included all registered political parties, including the opposition and parties in coalition with Rwanda Patriotic Front Inkotanyi.
RPF Inkotanyi won elections and got 40 seats out of 53 seats voted for in the parliamentary elections.
Opposition parties including Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and PS Imberakuri got 2 seats respectively.